Sunday Times. The media industry’s rising stars: top 40 under 40

40 under 40

Sunday Times, 23rd March 2008

THEY are the young guns tuned in to the accelerating pace of change in the media landscape – the trendspotters and entrepreneurs who stand to reap the biggest rewards over the next digital decade.

We present our list of “40 under 40” people from the media industry in its broadest sense – embracing broadcasting, computer games, venture capital and mobile technology. Most are up and coming; some have already made it. What unites them is that they are responding to the changing way in which the public uses the media and, in an age in which the internet is flooding the market with free content, figuring out how to make it pay.

The consumer is getting choosier. In Sky+ homes, for example, 17% of programmes are now “timeshifted” – or watched from the hard drive instead of when broadcasters decide to transmit them.

Internet advertising is forecast to be worth £3.4 billion in Britain this year, according to Group M. That figure is approaching 20% of all advertising spending and is closing in fast on the television industry’s total.
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Our selection process was wholly unscientific. Some of the established names are not here and we tried to limit ourselves to one person per company. We were looking for a strong mix of candidates who have got people talking. Some sit in the upper echelons of the biggest media and communications organisations in Britain. Others run tiny start-ups. All have digital media at the heart of their business. Report by James Ashton and Kate Walsh

Ajaz Ahmed, 34

Founder and chairman of Akqa Bath University dropout Ajaz Ahmed took to the internet after a short stint of working in Apple’s marketing department. He set up Akqa, a web design and marketing firm, in 1995. The company employs more than 600 people around the world and its clients include the BBC, Microsoft and Nike. The American private-equity firm General Atlantic paid £124m for a majority stake last year, and Akqa is now looking to expand by acquisition.

Max Alexander, 38

Strategy and new ventures director of Trinity Mirror Just as Max Alexander was about to set sail for a new career in Australia, Trinity boss Sly Bailey persuaded him to stay here. The newspaper publisher already has 160 websites, but Alexander wants to build “bigger, faster” businesses outside newspapers. He launched MUTV for Manchester United before a spell at BSkyB that led to a job at Carphone Warehouse as head of Mviva and Talk Talk. Before joining Trinity, Alexander was chief executive of Thomson Local.

Alexander Amosu, 32

Founder of Amosu Luxury From his bedroom, Alexander Amosu made his first million by composing and selling mobile-phone ring tones for £1 a time. Last Christmas he was popular with the bling brigade for encrusting iPhones with £20,000 of diamonds. Motorola commissioned him to design a bejewelled Bluetooth headset. Amosu is preparing to deliver a gem-laden Blackberry, costing £45,000, to the rapper P Diddy. He is also expanding into watches.

Michael Birch, 37

Co-founder of Bebo Guinness drinker Michael Birch will be toasting his success after pocketing £295m with his wife Xochi from the sale of their social networking website Bebo to AOL this month. The site has 40m users. Bebo, which came to stand for “blog early, blog often”, was the sixth internet company set up by Birch. He is not staying on under Bebo’s new owners, so stand by for the seventh launch.

James Burrows, 37

Chief executive of Litelogic Posters are history, according to James Burrows, whose firm produces digital messages for outdoor advertising. His blinking messages on the sides of buses and on lampposts are hard to ignore. Clients include and Yell. Burrows worked at the advertising agencies Publicis and JWT where he took part in the campaign to introduce Coca-Cola to Russia.

Suranga Chandratillake, 30

Chief executive of Blinkx The Sri Lankan-born Suranga Chandratillake spun out Blinkx, his video search system, from the Cambridge data sorting firm Autonomy last year and floated it on the Alternative Investment Market. Chandratillake spotted that the trend in internet searches was shifting from text to video and audio. Blinkx makes money by taking a small slice of advertising income from the likes of Reuters and ITN for pointing internet users towards their websites. Some 18.5m hours of video are indexed. But Chandratillake will have to work harder to convince investors of his vision. Blinkx’s share price has fallen by two-thirds.

Neil Chugani, 39

Finance director, BBC Worldwide If the BBC’s moneymaking arm ever makes it to the stock market, Neil Chugani will play a crucial role. He arrived last October from Goldman Sachs and had also been corporate finance director at BSkyB. The acquisition of travel guide Lonely Planet underscored Worldwide’s ambitions to expand beyond selling television formats and DVDs. Chugani will have to find private-equity partners so that its buying power can be stretched beyond a modest borrowing limit of £350m.

Tristia Clarke, 35

Marketing director of Carphone Warehouse Mother-of-two Tristia Clarke put Talk Talk broadband back on an even keel after its launch in 2006 sent Carphone Warehouse’s call centres into meltdown. She struck the deal to sponsor TheX Factor on ITV and supervises branding in 11 countries. Clarke joined from Kingfisher in 2000.

Christina Domecq, 31

Spinvox converts mobile-phone voicemails into text messages. The service was devised by chief executive Christina Domecq, a scion of the Spanish sherry dynasty, after she became fed up with scrabbling in her handbag for a pen to write down messages.

The five-year-old company has raised another £50m from institutions led by Goldman Sachs. The money will fund expansion into Portuguese, Italian and Arabic.Domecq hopes to reach 30m customers this year. Spinvox, run in partnership with Daniel Doulton of the pottery family, is already operating in seven countries, including Canada and Australia.

Domecq forecasts sales of £40m this year, jumping to £100m next year after doubling its number of mobile-phone partners from 12 to 24. GLG Partners, Blue Mountain Capital Management and Toscafund Asset Management contributed to the latest fundrasing, bringing the total raised so far to £100m and valuing Spinvox at more than £250m.

The firm’s latest application lets people update their Facebook page by leaving a voice message. Converting messages from office voicemails is on the way.

Adam Driscoll, 39

Co-founder and co-chief executive of the Mama Group Adam Driscoll moved from business publishing to showbusiness early in his career. He runs AIM-listed Mama, which failed to buy the ailing music group Sanctuary but has been buying up small music venues, including London’s Jazz Café. Mama also manages artists such as Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs. Its profits were £2m last year.

Paul Farley, 34

Managing director of Tag Games As one of the Dundee designers who worked on the hit computer game Grand Theft Auto, Paul Farley thinks that the future of gaming is mobile. Two-year-old Tag’s first release, Dead Water, a Poseidon Adventure-style game set on a sinking ship, was downloaded 250,000 times. A second title, Rock‘n’Roll, is being distributed with mobile carriers in America, bringing Tag to the attention of top publishers such as Electronic Arts.

Andrew Fickling, 35

Chief executive of Sport Media Group The Daily Sport earned Fickling’s loyalty by sponsoring his Brunel University degree. Now his task is to tone down the salacious newspaper to widen its appeal. But the rest of his AIM-listed group remains resolutely adult, selling racy pictures and chat over mobile phones. Huddersfield-born Fickling started as an IT underling and rose through the ranks, becoming chief executive when the Sport was reversed into Interactive World, another company owned by David Sullivan.

Mark Fitzgerald, 31

Founder of MX Telecom Hot tips and pictures sent to The Sun’s newsdesk arrive through MX’s text-messaging technology. It also streams videos from the BBC and Big Brother producer Endemol to mobile phones and has a mobile-phone payments arm, Payforit. MX was set up eight years ago by Mark Fitzgerald, a former JP Morgan derivatives trader, and his partner Thomas O’Donohoe.

Mark Gallagher, 37

Corporate affairs director of ITV Thanks to his powers of persuasion, News at Ten moved its time slot twice when Mark Gallagher was at ITN, but he arrived two weeks too late at ITV to take credit for the bulletin’s latest switch, back to 10pm. His greatest achievement was helping Camelot to win its third lottery licence. But after moving to ITV, he must convince the press and investors that recovery is truly on the way.

Jonathan Goodwin, 35

Chairman of global media investment banking at Jefferies This man has carved out a profitable niche by working on mid-sized media deals such as the £175m sale of Friends Reunited to ITV and EW Scripps’ purchase of Uswitch. More recently, Jonathan Goodwin helped Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Productions to buy Reveille Productions, maker of Ugly Betty. Last year he sold his boutique investment bank Longacre Partners to Jefferies, netting up to £15m, much of it in Jefferies stock.

Nick Gregg, 37

Founder of Strategy Eye Nick Gregg says he dreamt up the idea for the graduate recruitment website “in his spare time”. The business was sold to News Corporation for an estimated £20m two years ago. His new venture, Strategy Eye, combs the web for information on specialist sectors and sells it to clients that include Microsoft and Nokia.

Nick Green, 35

Chief executive of Tangent Communications Nick Green has big footsteps to follow in the shape of Uncle Michael, the Carlton supremo who investors blocked from chairing ITV. Green Jr cut his teeth at Teletext. Later he launched the marketing site in Britain. At the head of the direct-mail firm Tangent, which is backed by his uncle, he failed to take over printer St Ives and is now embroiled in a £30m battle to take control of the e-mail marketer TMN.

Andrew Gower, 29

Founder of Jagex Never mind the games console. Andrew Gower and his brother Paul only publish online the computer games dreamt up by their Cambridge firm. Rune Scape, Jagex’s sword and sorcery epic, has 1m subscribers paying £3.20 a month. Profits of £15m last year on sales of £28m led to a dividend payout of £8.6m. The American investor Insight Venture Partners owns a third of the business.

Brent Hoberman, 39

Executive chairman of Mydeco Two years after selling Last and netting £26m, Hoberman has spread his wealth and his time widely. He sits on the board of Guardian Media Group and chairs, a networking site for gap-year travellers. Hoberman’s priority, though, is Mydeco, an online furniture seller that brings together ranges from 500 retailers.

Rob Horler, 39

Founder of Diffiniti Rob Horler had his first taste of the digital world at Line One, an early internet service provider. After that he went to the media buyer Carat, part of Aegis. There he set up Diffiniti, a specialist online planning and buying company, which is expected to have turnover of about £70m this year.

David Joseph, 39

Chief executive of Universal Music UK Perhaps the only way is down for David Joseph, who has just replaced Lucian Grainge as head of Britain’s largest music group. Last year it had seven of the top ten albums, including Amy Winehouse’s bestseller Back to Black, pushing its UK market share close to 33%. A 15-year veteran of the music industry, Joseph oversees labels such as Island, Mercury and Polydor and artists such as Take That.

Roma Khanna, 38

The Global networks president at NBC Universal was promised excitement by NBC’s international boss, Pete Smith, if she swapped Toronto for London. He did not disappoint her.

Within weeks of Khanna arriving in September, after being prised from Canada’s Chum TV, NBC paid £175m for Sparrowhawk Media, owner of 18 international versions of the Hallmark Channel.

As part of a film and TV production hub being set up in London by NBC, Khanna oversees 48 pay-TV channels, including the Sci-Fi Channel and Movies 24. Her challenge is to double that to 100 in the next two years, plugging gaps in Asia and eastern Europe.

Debbie Klein, 39

Chief executive of WCRS South African born Debbie Klein’s advertising agency dreamt up the moustachioed 118 118 runners. The former Saatchi & Saatchi planner was a founder partner who bought out the agency from Havas in 2004. Billings were £253m last year after winning the Sky account more than offset the loss of the mobile-phone firm 3.

Saul Klein, 37

Partner of Index Ventures Since arriving from Skype last year, Saul Klein has brought together start-up companies and venture-capital backers for regular coffee mornings at his local Starbucks. Cambridge-educated Klein has put money into Glasses Direct, the spectacle seller. His own seed investment firm Tag has stakes in rising digital stars such as and Stardoll.

Richard Jones, 25

Founder of Cornish-born Richard Jones was living in a tent above his Shoreditch office when the music recommendation website was set up in 2003. He can afford something more luxurious after banking £19m when he and co-founders Felix Miller and Martin Stiksel sold out to American broadcaster CBS for £140m last year. However, Jones, who was at Southampton University when he dreamt up the software that can track a user’s music tastes, remains “100% committed” to the business. has 21m users.

Saul and I

Richard Moross, 30

Founder of Richard Moross believes he is putting a new slant on business cards for the digital age. A partnership with the photo-sharing website Flickr allowed users to print their own pictures on cards and caused some initial buzz. Stickers have followed. Agreements with Second Life and Bebo helped the output of the London-based printer rise to 10m cards last year.

James Murdoch, 35

Chairman and chief executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia James Murdoch braved accusations of nepotism when he became chief executive of BSkyB in 2003. He expanded the satellite broadcaster into a broadband and telephony provider, and set its sights on having 10m customers. Last December, he became chairman of Sky, replacing his father, Rupert. Sky is 39% owned by News Corp, the ultimate parent company of The Sunday Times. His new job gives Murdoch his first taste of managing newspapers.

Darryl Newton, 37

Managing director of Factory Media This man quit a marketing job at the lads’ magazine FHM in 1999 to join Onboard, a snowboarding magazine based over a nightclub in Chamonix. Backing of £4m from Acuity Capital funded the acquisition of Dirt, a motorbiking title, and Sidewalk, a skateboarders’ magazine. Factory Media should turn over £9m this year. Its websites have 450,000 users and carry 192 hours of user-generated videos of sporting stunts.

Alexander Northcott, 39

Founder of Gorkana Alexander Northcott has become the public-relations man’s friend by keeping track of journalists’ job moves. Named after his right-hand man during the four years he spent as a captain in the 7th Gurkha Rifles, Gorkana has a database of 65,000 hacks working in sectors from finance to politics. It is estimated to be worth more than £20m.

Crevan O’Grady, 36

Head of media at 3i If there is a media deal to be done, Crevan O’Grady is often in the thick of it. On his watch, the private-equity firm led the buy-out of VNU’s business media arm, where he now sits on the board. He financed Lord Alli’s deal to privatise Chorion, owner of the kids’ character Noddy. O’Grady qualified as a chartered accountant at KPMG and joined 3i 10 years ago.

Tim Pilcher, 38

Finance director, Clarion Events Dealmaker Tim Pilcher joined Clarion Events from Ernst & Young after advising on its buy-out in 1999. Since then Clarion has been sold twice more. The latest deal valued it at £120m. Pilcher aims to boost earnings from £11m to £50m in four years.

Toby Rowland, 38

Founder of Online gambling is out since the crackdown by the American authorities. But skill games, such as the word challenge Boggle, are gaining in popularity, particularly among women. King, with 11m users worldwide, was set up in 2003 by Toby Rowland, son of the late colourful tycoon Tiny Rowland. He began the venture after selling his Udate dating website to the American company IAC. Rowland sold a 30% stake in King to Apax Partners for £26m in 2005.

Christian Schneider-Sickert, 35

Strategy and operations director of Fremantle Media It already produces Britain’s Got Talent, but Christian Schneider-Sickert wants Fremantle to find even more talent. The former Goldman Sachs banker runs a £28m fund for the television producer, which is already backing actor Trevor Eve in several dramas. Schneider-Sickert joined the company in 2004 from Arvato, the outsourcing and printing division of Bertelsmann. He also co-founded the Oxford Business Group, a consulting firm.

Nathalie Schwarz, 37

Corporate development director of Channel 4 Relentlessly optimistic, Nathalie Schwarz took Channel 4 into digital radio just as her former employer GCap Media was giving up on the medium. But before the first new station, E4 Radio, even goes on air, she has been promoted to find new business opportunities for Channel 4. Schwarz, who qualified as a lawyer at Clifford Chance, worked on several acquisitions when she was at Capital Radio.

Nicola Shindler 39

Founder of Red Production With hits including Clocking Off, Queer As Folk and The Mark Of Cain to her credit, Nicola Shindler runs perhaps the best independent television producer that has not sold out to the big boys. The former Cracker script editor, who based Red in Manchester, stands to gain when part of the BBC relocates north by 2012. Old pal Russell Davies, the creative force behind the revival of Doctor Who, is likely to return to the Red fold after his tour of duty in the Tardis finishes.

Josh Silverman, 39

Chief executive of Skype Ebay has owned up to overpaying for Skype, which carries cheap phone calls over the internet. A £700m writedown of the 2005 deal’s value pushed the online auctioneer to a third-quarter loss. With nippy rivals like Rebtel amassing millions of users of their own, what does the future hold? The answer lies with Silverman, an American who previously ran Shopping. com, another eBay division. He arrives to take up his new post in London this week. Skype may have 276m users, but advertising revenues have been hard to come by.

Daniel Spencer, 31

Head of artist relations at He may be a frustrated musician, but Daniel Spencer is in the right place to make dreams come true for young bands that have no record deal. Artists sign up to Slicethepie to have their songs rated by members who chip in to fund an album release for their favourites – it costs about £15,000. Both sides share the profit. This month, indie rockers The Alps were the first to release an album this way.

Ashley Tabor, 30

On Wednesday, Ashley Tabor, chief executive of Global Radio, is expected to be crowned king of commercial radio. That is the deadline for Global Radio’s £371m bid for GCap Media, owner of Capital Radio, XFM and Classic FM.

It has been a heady rise for Tabor, son of the self-made billionaire bookmaker Michael Tabor.

Global, backed by Tabor Sr and Irish tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus, entered the British radio scene only last summer with the Heart and Galaxy stations acquired from Chrysalis.

Tabor said he would be involved in the industry even without the backing of his father. “I love radio,” he said. “It’s instinctive to me.”

His passion goes back to stints on hospital radio in Watford General at the age of 14. Two years later, he left school to become an unpaid runner at Capital, the station he will control.

“I would do daytime there, go home, sleep for a few hours, then drive up to Dunstable and do an overnight shift at Chiltern Radio. It was like that for a year. That’s how much I wanted to be in radio.”

Alex Taylor, 33

Chief executive of Jalipo Former IT manager Alex Taylor was made redundant from Cable & Wireless when the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. He later joined the internet video outfit Eonstreams. Jalipo brokers deals between rights owners and websites. It sold live coverage of Scotland’s European football qualifier against Italy to the Scotsman’s site last November.

Peter Ward, 29

Co-founder of Peter Ward returned from back-packing in 2002 with pal Jerome Touze and debts of £40,000. The former management consultant set up Wayn (Where are you now?) as a social networking website for travellers. It attracted £5.5m of funding at the start of 2007. But backers including Friends Reunited founder Steve Pankhurst and Brent Hoberman of fame, could cash out now that the investment bank Lazard has been appointed to find a buyer for the business.

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